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Lessons from the Netherlands for Marijuana Legalization in the US

July 19th

AMSTERDAM — The US states of Colorado and Washington voted last year to legalize marijuana and are moving forward toward implementing legalization. Activists in several states are lining up to try to do the same next year, and an even bigger push will happen in 2016.

With public opinion polls now consistently showing support for pot legalization at or above 50%, it appears that nearly a century of marijuana prohibition in the US is coming to an end.

Exactly how it comes to an end and what will replace it are increasingly important questions as we move from dreaming of legalization to actually making it happen. The Netherlands, which for decades now has allowed open marijuana consumption and sales at its famous coffee shops, provides some salutary lessons — if reformers, state officials, and politicians are willing to heed them.

To be clear, the Dutch have not legalized marijuana. The marijuana laws remain on the books, but are essentially overridden by the Dutch policy of “pragmatic tolerance,” at least as far as possession and regulated sales are concerned. Cultivation is a different matter, and that has proven the Achilles Heel of Dutch pot policy. Holland’s failure to allow for a system of legal supply for the coffee shops leaves shop owners to deal with illegal marijuana su. . . . . READ MORE

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WA, CO Congressmen Introduce Federal Bill to Allow Banking for Marijuana Industry

July 11th

WASHINGTON, DC — US Congressmen Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced a bill Wednesday, along with 16 bipartisan co-sponsors, to reform federal banking laws as they apply to marijuana related businesses, both in the existing medical marijuana industry and the forthcoming recreational marijuana industry in their respective states.

The bill, US House Bill 2652, the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013, would allow regulated, state authorized marijuana businesses — either medical or recreational — to have access to financial institutions.  The bill would update federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws, promoting community safety and financial security, according to the bill’s sponsors.

Currently, even the most basic banking services, such as business checking accounts or merchant credit card processing services, are largely unavailable to the marijuana industry.

Federal regulators impose stiff punishments and penalize banks and their employees for providing services to marijuana related businesses. The result is legitimate, licensed and regulated businesses have extreme difficulty accessing the banking system to accept credit cards, deposit r. . . . . READ MORE

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WA, CO Congressmen Introduce Federal Bill to Allow Banking for Marijuana Industry

July 11th

WASHINGTON, DC — US Congressmen Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced a bill Wednesday, along with 16 bipartisan co-sponsors, to reform federal banking laws as they apply to marijuana related businesses, both in the existing medical marijuana industry and the forthcoming recreational marijuana industry in their respective states.

The bill, US House Bill 2652, the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013, would allow regulated, state authorized marijuana businesses — either medical or recreational — to have access to financial institutions.  The bill would update federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws, promoting community safety and financial security, according to the bill’s sponsors.

Currently, even the most basic banking services, such as business checking accounts or merchant credit card processing services, are largely unavailable to the marijuana industry.

Federal regulators impose stiff punishments and penalize banks and their employees for providing services to marijuana related businesses. The result is legitimate, licensed and regulated businesses have extreme difficulty accessing the banking system to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes.

This forces legal, state-compliant marijuana businesses to operate as cash-only enterprises, inviting crimes such as robbery and tax evasion, adding to the burden of establishing a leg. . . . . READ MORE

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Colorado Releases Marijuana Growing, Sales Regulations

July 1st

DENVER, CO – Detailed rules for how recreational marijuana in Colorado should be grown and sold starting next year were released Monday.

The state department that will regulate marijuana released more than 60 pages of rules for how marijuana sales will be licensed and regulated. The Colorado Legislature set broad parameters earlier this year, but many nitty-gritty rules were left to the Department of Revenue.

Marijuana possession by adults has been legal since last December in Colorado, but retail sales don’t begin until January. The voter-approved marijuana legalization measure adopted last year required the department to release rules by July 1. The rules released Monday don’t apply to medical marijuana dispensaries.

The rules require labels to include potency, expiration dates and a disclaimer that marijuana isn’t legal outside Colorado and hasn’t been safety-tested.

Recreational marijuana will also come with the disclaimer that “there may be health risks associated with the consumption of this product.”

Marijuana labels won’t be allowed to make claims that the product brings any health benefit.

The rules also detail exact specifications for who can work in marijuana businesses and how the drug can be transported and stored.

The department’s rules indicate it plans to establish seed-to-sa. . . . . READ MORE

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CU Boulder Spent $108K to Block Annual 4/20 Smoke Out

June 28th

BOULDER, CO — The University of Colorado spent $107,794 to block the annual April 20 smoke out from the school’s campus, according to a statement issued by the school Thursday.  That amount is nearly $17,000 less than the school spent to block the gathering in 2012.

According to administration officials, the school spent the money to prevent “disruptions of research, teaching and basic university business resulting from the previous unsanctioned gatherings related to 4/20,” although advocates point that any “disruption” would have been minimal this year, with April 20 falling on a Saturday.

The unofficial annual campus event, featuring speakers and lots of pot-smoking, had drawn thousands of attendees in recent years, including around 10,000 in 2011.

Over the years, university administrators have tried various means to suppress the event, but  successfully barred non-students from entering the campus to join in the festivities last year, and prohibited the gathering altogether in 2013.

“We remain determined to permanently end the 4/20 gathering on the CU-Boulder campus,” CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said Thursday.

Costs for this year’s 4/20 campus closure were as follows:

CO Festival to Host Marijuana Legalization Debate Between Ex-DEA Chief & DPA’s Nadelmann

June 26th

ASPEN, CO – The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic are hosting their ninth annual Aspen Ideas Festival from June 26 through July 2, 2013. More than 300 insightful thinkers and leaders from around the country and beyond will gather in Aspen, CO to discuss their work, the issues that inspire them, and their ideas.

The week’s programming will cover a variety of important issues, including the economy, the Middle East, energy, space, mobility, design – and marijuana legalization, among other topics. The public dialogue will engage, over seven days, a festival audience of more than 4,000 attendees between the campus at the Aspen Meadows and the town of Aspen, as well as those following the festival online throughout the world.

On Monday, July 1st, Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, will debate former DEA head and U.S. Congressman Asa Hutchinson on marijuana legalization. Nadelmann and Hutchinson have previously debated on a national stage, such as on CNN’s Crossfire.

Last November, Colorado and Washington became the first states in the country – and the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world – to legally regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult use.

Two months ago, a Pew poll found for the first time in four decades of p. . . . . READ MORE

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US Court Records Show Nearly 500 Years in Prison Time for Medical Marijuana Offenses

June 15th

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — In spite of growing public support for medical marijuana, concern about overreach by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies, and cutbacks in federal spending, the U.S. government’s war on medical marijuana is raging unabated according to a survey of court records by Cal NORML.

On Tuesday, Michigan medical marijuana grower Jerry Duval, a kidney and pancreas transplant patient with severe medical problems, began serving a ten-year sentence in the same prison as the Boston bomber. Duval joins a growing list of defendants in states that allow medical marijuana who have been charged by the Department of Justice for violating federal laws prohibiting medical marijuana.

According to a survey of US court records, news stories, and case reports compiled by Cal NORML (with help from Americans for Safe Access):

Colorado Governor Signs Law Regulating State Hemp Production

June 15th

DENVER, CO — Governor John Hickenlooper has signed legislation, Senate Bill 241, into law creating a new program within the Department of Agriculture to oversee the regulation of commercial hemp production.

Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only minute (less than 1%) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Senate Bill 241 classifies cannabis possessing no more than three-tenths of one percent THC as an agricultural commodity and establishes a 9-member committee within the state Department of Agriculture to oversee the creation of regulations governing the licensed cultivation of hemp for commercial and research purposes. The Department must adopt regulations for the new program no later than March 1, 2014.

Unlike similar laws enacted in other states, SB 241 does not mandate farmers seeking state-issued hemp cultivation licenses to also seek federal approval. The federal Controlled Substances Act makes no legal distinction between marijuana and industrial hemp.

Federal legislation, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to e. . . . . READ MORE

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Judge Strikes Down Colorado Rule Restricting Marijuana Magazine Sales

June 12th

DENVER, CO — A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a provision of Colorado’s marijuana legalization law that would have required stores to sell cannabis-themed publications behind the counter, like pornography.

Magazine publishers and bookstores had filed a lawsuit against the state last week, arguing that the measure, passed by the Colorado legislature this spring, should be overturned before it takes effect on July 1.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch’s ruling came a day after the state attorney general’s office, which would have defended the measure in court, agreed with the plaintiffs that it was unconstitutional.

“The defendants have conceded the invalidity of the code provision cited in the complaints,” Matsch said in his order granting a permanent injunction.

Colorado voters approved the recreational use of marijuana by adults last fall and charged lawmakers with setting up regulations to sell and tax cannabis products.

Supporters of the behind-the-counter provision said it was aimed at reducing juveniles’ exposure to the material.

But publi. . . . . READ MORE

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Colorado “Pot as Porn” Magazine Restriction Declared Unconstitutional

June 9th

DENVER, CO — The Colorado legislature’s plan to require marijuana related magazines to be treated as pornography and displayed behind the counter went up in smoke Thursday when Attorney General John Suthers said the provision was unconstitutional and would be ignored.

“No magazine whose primary focus is marijuana or marijuana businesses is required to be sold only in retail marijuana stores or behind the counter in establishments where persons under twenty-one years of age are present, because such a requirement would violate the United States Constitution, the Colorado Constitution, and section 24-4-103(4)(a.5)(IV), C.R.S,” the Attorney General’s office said in a statement Thursday.

The unusual provision to treat pot magazines like pornography was a late amendment introduced by Republican Rep. Bob Gardner to Colorado’s bill to establish a regulated marijuana market for adults, making Colorado the first — and only — state to require stores that allow entry to shoppers under age 21 to place pot magazines behind the counter.

“We applaud the Attorney General’s decision to declare as unconstitutional this absurd rule that marijuana-related publications be treated like pornographic material,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“The idea that stores can prominently display ma. . . . . READ MORE

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